And so the Dark Side was compelled to investigate: how do businesses get infected with tapeworms?
However, for all their cynicism, the people do still feel they are pushing baloney, big salaries or not. The frustrated need for self-actualization breeds surprising peevishness. I can positively hear the chorus of universal indignation: "but the properly efficient companies do exist! Those where a minimum of personnel produces maximum performance. Take our company…" OK, I won't argue; they do exist, maybe yours is one of them – the score is not in your favour though. Let me explain.
Quite recently, I had the pleasure of studying, deeply but informally, the functioning of two European companies. Both are working in the construction business and have approximately equal market weight. But one company had two people running a project – one in the office and one at the site – and in the other it was quite impossible to count the management personnel because they were breeding like rabbits, rats and cockroaches. Not too long ago, it was impossible to imagine the continued coexistence of such management structures in the same market: the more efficient companies were quickly eating up the bloated and inefficient ones. But today, the parasite-infested business structures are setting industry standards. True efficiency looks like anachronism: what's the point keeping your nose to the grindstone if the dimwits are going to gobble it up anyway. And should the dear old company go belly up, that's not an issue either – just move to another one, no problem at all with that kind of CV and that golden parachute!
So I got curious about how such parasite infestations emerge in business, and about why they are feeling so much at ease in what is supposed to be a highly competitive environment. Finding the answer requires us to take a deep dive, because the factor that reduces business immunity and allows parasites to flourish is Judaeo-Christian morality, which sits at the core of modern culture – that the strong must have mercy on the weak. That the strong must help the weak. That the strong must embrace self-sacrifice, and guide the weak through the darkness with the light of their Christian virtue. And feed them on the way, and look after their emotional comfort – which any person is apparently entitled to. And if the strong are flouting their duties, they are to be condemned by the weak, who shall say: what absolute bastards, they are refusing to share their strength.
And that is the essence of "leadership" as it is understood in a modern company. But an "authoritarian" leader is the one that makes people work. The one that occasionally listens to the subordinates, but ultimately makes decisions without regard for anybody else. So there, that kind of leader is declared despicable, and never mind the fact that the entire list of the present day civilisation comforts had been created by exactly such despots. From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs to Elon Musk – those are all nutters who did what they saw fit and never asked the crowd for its views. They didn't give a damn about those views, and they were, and are, systematically and deliberately (and blasphemously, from the parasites' perspective) exterminating the tapeworms. They were, through tears and tantrums of their personnel, deworming their companies.
A parasite's consciousness can easily combine admiration for authoritative businessmen (who are out there somewhere) and indignation at the "unethical" deworming measures. That is to be expected – the parasites have made themselves quite comfortable inside their victims' bodies. Not only that, they are becoming predators themselves. They got their inalienable rights and teeth to defend them. And now the predators have to play victims – where do you think all those stories are coming from, about the inhuman hours that the guys from the Forbes list are putting in, about four hours of sleep per day and about the non-stop work during the remaining twenty? About how wonderfully democratic they are and how they are flying economy class and eating at MacDonald's?
That's because our world – here and now – is governed by the parasites' ethics. Within that ethics, any strong man ought to feel ashamed for the manifestations of his strength. And that sin may be atoned, in particular, by poor nutrition and daily hard work. Or at least some appearances should be put up in that general direction.
All of that leads to a very scary outcome – the parasites enter the brains of the predators, i.e. businessmen. And since nobody is there to tell the businessman that nothing can ever be built within that inverted ethical framework, they are stuck in a schizophrenic state of trying to solve an insoluble problem of doing something without upsetting or mistreating anyone. Which would have needed a consensus, of course – some kind of "ecological" decision can only be reached if everyone is in a highly unlikely unanimous agreement.
As soon as that kind of decision making algorithm takes root at a company, its demise is only a matter of time. The exact schedule depends on the load carrying capacity and the parasites' appetite. As such, the emergence of that algorithm signifies the breach, by the parasite, of the central nervous system and other vital organs of the company. That's it – your business is no longer yours. Without any hostile takeovers, it belongs to the parasites now. Rest assured, they'll find a use for it, and will "improve the process efficiency".
And if the businessman doesn't give a damn – willingly or unwillingly – about the parasite ethics and acts in his own rational interest by personally steering the ship, he ends up under pressure, either from his own shame and guilt, or from the public opinion: "just look at the bloody bastard". And so the last refuge left for the man who wants to get something done is hypocrisy. That is, donning the mask of people's champion and doing exactly the opposite. If anyone finds that difficult, just look at some bureaucrats. Or your own parasites – lying through their teeth is something they excel at.
The remarkable thing is that, of all the parasites I had met, not a single one had felt any shame or doubt. Quite the contrary – they are confident of their place in history. And if the host stops feeding them with his body and energy, they – the tapeworms – would be sorely aggrieved by that insolent behaviour. And that indignation is righteous – within parasites' ethics, that is.
text, illustration © The Dark Side of Business